Call for Session Proposals


Disrupting the Politics of Place: Building Inclusive Communities for the Future

Submit proposals by Monday, January 22nd, 2018 (deadline extended)!

Looking for something specific?

WHEN: June 7st – June 10th, 2018

  • Welcome Event on June 7th
  • Conference June 8th-10th
  • Registration info coming soon!

WHERE: Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Pennsylvania, USA

WHAT: A chance to LEARN, SHARE, QUESTION, and CONNECT through interactive techniques developed by Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal, and other people working to fight oppression and create justice. Learn more about Freire and Boal and their work.

WHO: YOU. Students, teachers, scholars, artists, activists, organizers. People of all ages, places, identities, experiences. If you want to build dialogue and make a more just world, you are invited, you are welcomed, and you are NEEDED.

Conference participants create a machine of movement and sound on stage at a past PTO Conference.

Conference participants create a large machine of movement and sound.

WHY: The 23rd Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference will be held in Indiana, Pennsylvania—a rural borough located an hour outside of the city of Pittsburgh, PA. This region is characterized by its distinctive landscape of both urban and rural communities extending from the city of Pittsburgh to the surrounding boroughs of Northern Appalachia. This unique composition of the Western Pennsylvania region offers a microcosm for examining the larger politics of place that shape and divide our local, regional, and global communities.

Around the globe, communities face many of the same challenges surrounding the politics of place. Whose stories do we tell in the bid to transform and adapt to changing circumstances? What happens to notions of national identity when the gap between the experiences of rural and urban areas continues to widen? How can we ensure that communities gain access to economic opportunities while maintaining their sense of self and identity? Can we envision a future built on inclusion and equity rather than on the success of the few at the expense of the many?

Our conference takes place at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, located in Indiana Borough, which has a population of approximately 14,000. Sixty miles southwest of Indiana, separated by farm lands and gas industry, is the city of Pittsburgh, PA, known as the “Steel City” from early industrial days and the “City of Bridges” for its 446 bridges. Those living in the Western Pennsylvania region, between these two cities, experience high rates of poverty, rural food deserts, opioid dependency, and the environmental legacy of coal/gas industry. There are also vibrant attempts at redefining place, re-imagining community, and engaging dialogue about identities, belonging, and sustainability towards a goal of just communities for the future.

Following the collapse of the steel industry, Pittsburgh has been re-invented from a city of steel to a city built on education, healthcare, and technology – a global city, to some, by its selection to host the G20 summit in 2009. The city’s revitalization did not transfer to all of Pittsburgh’s residents, nor has it reached the surrounding region in Western Pennsylvania, which includes the borough of Indiana, PA. Challenges to health, income, affordable housing, equity, and education remain for many of the urban, rural, immigrant and indigenous communities within the region, who often find their stories left out of the official narrative. The politics of place continue to revolve around issues of inclusion and exclusion and of who belongs.

Our 2018 PTO conference site presents a unique opportunity to engage in larger dialogue and action centered on the divides arising, not only from geography, but also from the allocation of resources, population identity, ideology, and politics in the Western Pennsylvania region as well as within our global communities. We focus this year on disrupting these politics of place and dismantling the “us/them” divide towards the building of inclusive communities for the future.


  • Submit a proposal to share your work and ideas with people from around the world.
  • Register to attend as a participant, whether you want to present or not. COMING SOON
  • Consider making a donation specifically to support financial accessibility for attendees!
  • If you’re local to Indiana, PA, volunteer with us. Email to let us know you want to volunteer.


  • Check out the questions related to our theme below. Let the questions get your ideas flowing.
  • Read our list of session formats at the bottom of the page, and choose one that fits your work.
  • Submit a proposal by our deadline of January 22nd, 2018.


NOTE: This conference focuses on community-building across diverse groups, many of whom are unfamiliar with Pedagogy or Theater of the Oppressed and liberatory practices. We welcome introductory and exploratory sessions to engage these practices with novice participants. We understand that work done by many individuals and groups may fulfill PTO’s mission without formal links to PO/TO or familiarity with the work of Boal and Freire.
We hope to present work that promotes not only the opportunity for oppressed people to speak in their own voices but also listens to, amplifies, and disseminates what those voices say, the stories they tell, and the demands they make through liberatory theatre, popular education, and other methodologies. We ask that those submitting proposals consider their work or group’s work against the following questions:

  • How does the work challenge oppressive systems?
  • How does the work promote critical thinking?
  • How does the work exemplify, promote or document liberatory theater, popular education and other revolutionary action?


The questions below are provided to inspire your session proposal. Please consider them as you develop your proposal.

  • How are the “politics of place” visible in your community (immigration, homelessness, food insecurity, basic rights, etc.) and what strategies do you use to disrupt narratives and policies of exclusion and division?
  • What binaries are embedded in our communities and practice through language, culture, citizenship, politics, ideology, etc.?
  • How are oppressed communities utilizing Pedagogy of the Oppressed (PO), Theatre of the Oppressed (TO) and other approaches to liberatory arts and education to preserve and share their stories?
  • How do liberatory theatre and education support immigrant and refugee populations in their desire to simultaneously maintain cultural traditions and integrate into new communities?
  • How have liberatory practices been employed and evolved since the 2016 U. S. presidential election to align diverse groups in solving social problems and struggling against oppression–and to embrace or account for the varied perspectives and experiences of heterogeneous groups?
  • In what ways can PO/TO communities align with other forms of liberatory practices (i.e. Anti-Oppression work, interactive storytelling, Interplay, and Playback Theatre)?


All sessions will need to center around the work of Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and/or Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed. Presenters must be familiar with at least one of these works/modalities.

  • Single Session: 90 minutes
  • Double Session: Two back-to-back 90 minute sessions totaling three hours (not available for Paper Presentations)

Anti-Oppression Dialogue: Specific interactive trainings for conference participants in various aspects of anti-oppression work, including language/terminology, specific communities and populations, challenges and ethics, and working methodologies rooted in liberatory education and/or TO techniques. Sessions should engage Paulo Freire’s basic ideas of dialogue.

Workshops, The Techniques: Interactive workshops that focus on exploring, explaining, and experiencing techniques of PO and/or TO. Workshops may also present adaptations, expansions, and permutations of the work developed for changing situations, circumstances, and populations.

Workshops, The Applications: Interactive workshops that explore the multitude of ways PO and/or TO can be (and is) used for social justice, transformation, and liberatory work.  Workshops and case studies may also highlight convergences other liberatory artistic and educational techniques.

Performances: Interactive performative events that promote and problematize transformation, liberation, social justice, and/or political engagement. The conference should not be seen merely as a showcase, but rather as an opportunity to engage in interactive exploration of the performance itself, the topics about which it was created, or both.

Debates or Dialogues: Discussions or debates between activists, artists, organizers, and/or popular educators. Sessions may also ask attendees to participate in dialogue around specific concepts, techniques, or case studies related to PO and/or TO work.  All presenters must have agreed to participate and be part of the proposal.

Panel: Pre-formed group of 3-4 presentations addressing a specific area of liberatory work. All presenters must have agreed to participate and be part of the proposal.  Sessions should also include dialogue or other interaction with attendees.

Paper Presentation: Summary of research or issue in PO and/or TO work and theory, delivered from notes. Papers should NOT be read, but rather presented.   Each presentation should last approximately 10-12 minutes, excluding discussion. We will cluster papers in groups of 3-4 with time for dialogue. Not available for double session.

PO vs. TO

Please notice that we will also ask you to submit whether your session is more heavily rooted in pedagogy of the oppressed (PO) or theatre of the oppressed (TO) work. This distinction will be included in the conference guide and enable attendees to select workshops more appropriately. For example, a workshop on “Workshop, The Techniques” of PO or TO might be quite different in terms of activities and approach.

Questions? Email